A Walk with Dad: The News

I think this was the morning of Sunday the 26th, but again I was so exhausted it is hard to keep the days straight. I had slept most of the day before and felt better but was still just weary. It was truly bone tired. I received a call from the assisted living place.  They were a bit concerned because Dad had been so active the day before, but was not able to get out of bed that morning.  He had not wanted to eat breakfast and was too weak to get out of bed.

I immediately went over and saw him.  He was talking, but his speech was slow and a little slurred.  For the first time he did not want the news on, which he always wanted to watch the news, or the Discovery Channel, or the History Channel, or anything on WWI or WWII. He just wanted it quiet so he could rest.  I asked how he was and he said he was OK.  But his sentences were short 1-3 three words and very basic.

One of the two Hospice nurses taking care of him was already there, the other was coming in even though it was her day off.  I knew that it had to be bad to have two of them there. I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and told them that whatever the truth was, I could take it, so please shoot straight. I said that they did not have to sugar coat anything.

They both examined him and told me the news:  It was one of two things, either he had really over done it the day before and it would take a day or so to recover, or he was in the beginning stage of the dying process. They next 24 hours would tell a lot, and within 48 hours we would definitely know.

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach, but smiled and told them thank you.  I stayed with him all that day.  I made sure he was OK, had whatever he needed.  The staff were great, checking in on him, even checking in on me and asking me if I needed anything. The Hospice nurses we great, checking on Dad, taking his vitals, making sure that he was not in pain and could breathe fine.

I prayed and prayed, but deep down I knew,  I kept thinking about that last conversation he said…”If I am stying here then I am going to have to change how I think about a few things.”  He had lost Mom, the love of his life, he had left his home and friends, to move in with his daughter, and now he had been relocated to a very lovely assisted living facility.  I think he tried, but decided he didn’t want to continue.

He was lying there, and he looked so small.  A few times he rolled over on his side, with a grimace because of Pain. Dying of liver cancer is painful as the liver and kidneys shut down. But the Hospice nurses were wonderful in making sure that was not in pain long. They tended to him so lovingly and better than I could have.

By the afternoon he had the “death rattle” when breathing.  I remembered it from when Mom was dying and I knew what it was.  I knew that Dad wasn’t suffering or in any discomfort.  It sounds worse than it actually is. And I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I prayed that Dad would pull through somehow.  That a miracle would happen and that next morning he would wake up and smile, and tell me he was hungry. Prayed for grace and strength.

I sat there in the room with him as he slept and wondered who I could call.  I couldn’t find my older sister.  I had been keeping the other siblings updated, but they were not terribly bothered.  I called a few of my best friends…but I couldn’t get the words out…I think my Dad is dying, but I am not sure? They are not sure. We will know something in 24-48 hours? What was I to do in the meantime?  Was I going to have to go through this alone? The other four siblings probably wouldn’t be there.  Could I even handle being alone when Dad died? Again, I felt so alone.  That is the thing about death, it is usually worse for the loved ones than the patient.

The Hospice nurses, Trey and Julie, had explained to me that if this was the beginning process for Dad, that he would not suffer at all.  Not only because they would take care of him, but because dying of liver cancer is actually one of the most peaceful ways to go.  They said that the ammonia would build up in his brain and he would become delirious and almost happy.  And so it was.